I’m not a wine sommelier. I just know and enjoy a good glass of wine. And I love it even more if it’s from California or Washington State. Although I’ve had no involvement or training in the wine industry other than as a consumer, you may call me a wine enthusiast. During the time that I’ve been enjoying wine, I’ve learned a thing or two about wine, among them, that wine is about relationships and sharing.
And this is my story
Many years back in Kenya I used to take a small drink that was sold in a green bottle. They called it Cider, which from my little knowledge and the color of it, I thought was wine. Only after years of travel and exposure I came to discover that my little bottle of Cider was, oh well, not wine, but something else:-)
I studied, worked and lived in the United States for 13 years. The U.S. had been my second home since I traveled there to pursue a degree course in Information Technology. Immersed in a new world and life with no family nearby, I sought the comfort of new found friends; Americans, Kenyans and other nationals-alike, who helped me navigate the new culture, systems, life, and somehow contributed in shaping me to the person I have become.
My wine tasting adventures
I’m in college, but I had never tasted real wine. Then I started hanging out with American friends who their only drink of choice was wine. So out of curiosity, they would offer me sips from their glasses. I had no other forms of characterizing the various tastes and smells, so to the taste some sips were sweet, others tangy, lemon-dry, some in between the taste of cough syrup and juice, others could be very sour or bitter. But most of the smells (called aromas), were distinctively fruity. The conflicting tastes only confused my taste buds so much more that I couldn’t make sense of what I liked or didn’t like about their wines. But because I was eager to explore and know more about their drinks, one friend offered to introduce to me all about savoring wine and the wine drinking culture. I welcomed the offer. And from the next event, and every other gathering, she would bring a different bottle, a different taste, a different color for me. In the U.S, wine is identified by the grape it is made of (varietal), namely; Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Moscato, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Syrah, Malbec among hundreds of other grape varietals. Some grapes happen to be more popular and known than others.
And there I was with my first glass of California wine; a Moscato made from the Muscat grapes – a deliciously sweet white wine that I really liked as it felt soft on my palette. It almost felt like drinking a fruit salad! It was served chilled, which I learned is how white wine is supposed to be served.
After a couple of events and bottle parties, I’d soon graduate to yet another white grape wine known as Riesling. To the nose the Riesling had a flowery aroma, with a crisp, tangy, lingering sweet taste with every sip.
The day is still vivid on my mind when I first tasted a glass of Merlot; a red wine produced from the Merlot grape varietal. It had a dark fruity color similar to blueberries and other dark fruits. In the mouth it felt dense and heavy; an attribute I came to learn is what characterizes medium to full-bodied wines. To the taste it was off-dry; a sharp contrast to the sweet taste of Moscato and Riesling that I had tried. Over time, I would enjoy a glass of Merlot every now and then. Later, I would move on to the next big taste of California red wine; a Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a dark, dry, full-bodied, full-flavored, intensely aromatic wine that has remained my favorite of all wine varietals. As I became more engaged on reading wine labels along grocery store aisles, I soon found out that not all wine was produced in California; that there were other wine grape growing regions as well. And after that my house parties were never complete without wines from California, Columbia Valley in Washington State and Oregon among other wine grape growing regions of the U.S. I wound try out my friends with different wines from the different regions every time I had a party, and observe what they liked best and listen to what they would say of my wine selections.
Although I find red wines more palatable while whites are more easily tolerable at first than reds, my palette is now accustomed to both types. Depending on the occasion, mood, time, weather, I oscillate between reds and whites plus an occasional Rosé. By day, I lean towards the whites; while a Rosé remains my favorite accompaniment to a brunch. Hmm…and on a quiet, hot, sunny afternoon, I easily dive on a good, chilled, oaked, buttery glass of Chardonnay. By night, I’m delighted by the taste of a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot among other reds. And I find the taste of a California Pinot Noir simply elegant; just what I’d prefer to have at a formal event.
But I will admit that my biggest rave must be the wine blends from California and Columbia Valley. Blends, as they’re popularly called, are wines that are almost equally made from more than one grape. They open with deep generous aromas ranging from crème, dark fruit flavors to coffee and leather. Most are off-dry, with a taste ranging from medium to soft (call them tannins) that end with a velvety finish. Some blends are easy to drink while others almost require an experienced wine drinker to appreciate them. Hey the wine connoisseur, this Bordeaux-style red blend is for you-:) I can also say for a person who is new to wine drinking, they’d probably enjoy a soft start with the easy to drink wine blends such as this one from Columbia Valley, than the 80-100% grape varietal wines.
Through my Journeys Sipping Wine
With college education now behind me, I got an IT job in Corporate America. And I continued my wine experiences and adventures attending wine festivals and tasting sessions where I’d get to sip different California wines as I learned about them. In America, every wine bottle has a story; a history behind it and the winemakers/producers delight at sharing their story with the consumer….connecting the wine to its production and origins; the soils, weather, terrain, climate, wine-making process to the family tradition and generations that it has passed through. I would find the history and wine story-telling so enriching and fascinating that even today, I still first scan a wine bottle, looking to find and read a story, before I open it.
From the breath-taking views of Santa Cruz Mountains in California where ‘Tradition, Quality, and Craft‘ is their art of making fine wine, to holidays and wine events in Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley (the two main and popular wine grape-growing regions of the United States) I’ve learned so much more about wine. Through hosting parties with my Kenyan friends, I also learned what California, and in general, American wines, appeal to the unique Kenya palette.
It was during my various visits to Kenya while I resided in the United States when I observed that the Kenya consumer is evolving, going through a very exciting new phase, acquiring new habits, culture and lifestyle that also involved experiencing wine. But they were also limited in their choices and understanding of wine. Often they also felt intimidated and lost when selecting wine, which leads them to select their wine using only four terms (red, white, sweet, dry). But as we will get to find out, these are very narrow definitions as there’s so much more to wine than color and taste.
Thus I want to share wine and what I know about wine with you; my taste, lifestyle, stories and experiences. On this website, you will find information that should enrich your knowledge, enhance your vocabulary and understanding of wine. From this online store, you will be able to purchase quality wine from California, Columbia Valley in Washington State and other U.S wine growing regions that will simply delight your taste buds. At this online store and in our shop in Westlands, Nairobi, you will find my personal and favorite picks of wine from California, Washington State and Oregon that won’t intimidate you. My recommendations that are so good they simplify the world of wine and save you time from sifting through the myriad of good and some really awful wines that are currently flooding the Kenya marketplace.
California Wines by Rose is the culmination of all I love about American wines, the lessons and experiences that I’ve had with wine, the people that will learn and enjoy wine from me, or through me and the passion I have for entrepreneurship.
Call me up or drop me a line as we get to know each other. Or if you need my help with wine, selection or other. I look forward to exploring, learning, sharing and enjoying American wines with you now that I’m back home in Kenya.